Richard Stanton, one of the writers at Kotaku U.K., has been regularly writing about a game called Richard Dawkins: Evolution. The game is being developed by Gordon Douglass Ross and is being Kickstarted at the moment. It was discovered that Stanton has financially supported the Kickstarter but hasn’t been disclosing that little detail in the articles.
Over on Kotaku in Action, users Nordic Wish and B-Volleyball-Ready brought the issue up and made it a public talking point for the sub-Reddit.
The post details that Stanton has written three articles about Richard Dawkins: Evolution. The three pieces were published on March 10th, 2017. One piece covers the British development scene, another piece discusses Richard Dawkins, Brexit and Donald Trump, and the last piece is a general preview piece.
None of the articles contain clear and concise disclosure about Stanton financially supporting the Kickstarter for Richard Dawkins: Evolution.
Over on the Kickstarter page you can also clearly see that Stanton is a backer for the project.
For the standard version of Kotaku, editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo had mentioned that writers should disclose or “mention” ties in the articles where there’s a connection to the developer.
The Kotaku U.K., branch’s head editor is Keza MacDonald, and I reached out to both MacDonald and Totilo to find out if disclosure polices at either branch were still being enforced. If either decides to respond, the article will be updated to reflect that.
Some YouTubers such as Harmful Opinions have been more concerned with the quality of the game than the conflict of interest, pointing out that the game doesn’t seem to be particularly well made even though it’s set to release later this year.
Regardless of the quality of the game, this news actually comes shortly on the heels of another ethical lapse by Kotaku that involved a conflict of interest from Chris Priestman.
The issue of a lack of disclosure was the foundation of what spawned heavy scrutiny into the video games press and the topic of ethics in journalism back in 2014. Kotaku was at the heart of the controversy that would later spawn #GamerGate. While the site stated that they had some new policies in place for disclosure, so far there have been multiple instances where disclosure has not been properly made for the general public.
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